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OXFORD PAMPHLETS ON WORLD AFFAIRS 

No. 33 



LABOUR UNDER 
NAZI RULE 

BY 
WILLIAM A. ROBSON 



OXFORD 

AT THE CLARENDON PRESS 
1940 



HITLER'S achievement in abolishing unemployment has 
been much admired outside Germany as well as inside. 
The extent to which industrial servitude and regimenta- 
tion have been exacted as the price of that achievement is 
either not realized, or is glossed over as though it were 
merely an irrelevant incident. This Pamphlet describes 
the sweeping changes that have been made by the Nazi 
regime in the status and organization of labour, from 
the liquidation of the highly progressive German work- 
ing-class movement in 1933 down to the system of 
unmitigated industrial conscription introduced since 
1938. 'The employed masses of German men and 
women have ceased to be free citizens of the world of 
labour. They have entered a state of peonage the like 
of which has not been seen in the countries of Western 
Europe for centuries/ 

Dr. W. A. Robson is University Reader in Admini- 
strative Law at the London School of Economics; and 
is an authority on industrial law and relations. He is 
Joint Editor of the Political Quarterly and the author of 
many well-known works on law and government. 



First Published 4th July 1940 
Reprinted r$th July 1940 



Printed in Great Britain and published by 
THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, Amen House, E.G. 4 

LONDON EDINBURGH GLASGOW NEW YORK TORONTO 
MELBOURNE CAPETOWN BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS 

HUMPHREY MILFORD Publisher to the University 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

THE position of the workers in a community 
is not only extremely important as an index 
of economic and social welfare, but it is also highly 
significant from a political point of view. Funda- 
mental changes in the purposes or constitution of a 
regime are quickly reflected in an alteration of the 
status and condition of the labouring masses. It 
would be possible to cite innumerable instances 
drawn from past and present times to illustrate the 
close connexion between the status of the workers 
and the political regime under which they live. 

The tremendous change which German labour 
has undergone since the accession to power of the 
Nazi party is, therefore, in no way a matter for 
surprise. It is, nevertheless, of great significance as 
an indication of the underlying aims and philosophy 
of the Hitler government. 

Before 1933 Germany was one of the most 
progressive countries in the world so far as the 
position of organized labour was concerned. The 
German working-class movement started to emerge 
on its industrial side about 1860, and, except for a 
period of legal proscription under Bismarck be- 
tween 1878 and 1890, trade unions grew con- 
tinuously until 1922, when the membership reached 
a peak of over nine millions. Thereafter the num- 
bers declined to rather less than six millions in 1929. 
On its political side, the movement founded the 
Social Democratic party as early as 1890; and by 
1914 this party polled nearly \\ million votes, a 
third of the whole electorate. Bismarck, although 

4655-33 



4 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

strongly hostile and repressive towards the Socialist 
movement, was a pioneer in initiating a system of 
social insurance in Germany. 

Labour under the Weimar Republic 

After the Great War of 1914-18 the most striking 
advances were made in German industrial relations. 

Collective bargaining had hitherto not been fully 
recognized under the civil law. One of the first 
steps after the revolutionary upheaval which accom- 
panied the defeat of Germany was an Order (dated 
23 December 1918) regulating collective bargaining. 
This decree gave exclusive recognition to trade 
unions as contracting parties on the workers' side, 
and conferred a new and enhanced status on the 
collective bargain. The Order was confirmed by 
an Act of the National Assembly in March 1919. 
It gave an immense impetus to the practice of 
collective bargaining, and in consequence to the 
power of the trade unions. It authorized the Minis- 
ter of Labour to extend a collective agreement, 
under certain conditions, to unorganized workers. 
By 1922 the conditions of employment of more 
than 14 million workers were determined by collec- 
tive agreements. 

In 1919 legislation provided for a maximum 
working day of eight hours and a maximum working 
week of forty-eight hours, a break of thirty-six 
hours of continuous rest during the week, a half- 
holiday on Saturday, and restrictions on night work. 
Although inroads were made later on these stan- 
dards, it is nevertheless true that throughout the 
life of the Weimar Republic Germany remained 
substantially in advance of England and the United 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 5 

States in the protection afforded to her workers 
against excessively long hours of work. 

The most important feature of working-class pro- 
gress in Germany was, however, the establishment 
of works councils 'to protect the common interests 
of employees against the employer'. The Works 
Councils Act, 1920, set up works councils in all 
establishments employing twenty workers or more. 
The members were elected by the employees alone 
from among their own ranks, and the number varied 
from three to thirty according to the size of the 
enterprise. 

The works council was authorized to co-operate 
with the management in improving industrial effi- 
ciency and in introducing new labour methods. It 
was empowered to promote industrial peace; to 
supervise the carrying out of collective agreements ; 
to negotiate with the employer on the question of 
works rules. It was to assist the factory inspectors 
in improving industrial hygiene and in reducing 
the number of accidents. It was to co-operate in 
the administration of welfare schemes in the 
factory. 

The works councils were not designed to usurp 
the functions of the trade unions; on the contrary, 
they depended for their success on the closest 
collaboration with the unions. The general regula- 
tion of wages and hours was not normally dealt with 
by the works council, except in so far as this was 
covered by works rules (Arbeitsordnung), for which 
its approval was required. It could intervene to 
prevent the dismissal of workers, or appeal on their 
behalf to the Labour Court to secure reinstatement 
or the payment of monetary compensation as an 



6 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

alternative. It was charged with seeing that indus- 
trial legislation was duly observed by the employer. 
It could demand a quarterly report from the em- 
ployer concerning wages, output, profits, and other 
matters relevant to the claims of labour. It had 
access to wages books and other information. It 
could require the presentation of accounts with full 
explanations. It had a statutory right to nominate 
one or two members on the board of directors of a 
joint stock company. 

The works councils were extremely successful in 
regard to that part of their work which concerned 
the safeguarding of the employees' immediate in- 
terest: in such matters, for example, as the super- 
vision of collective bargains, the protection of in- 
dividual workmen against victimization or harsh 
treatment, and in generally upholding the workers' 
rights in office, mine, and factory. They were on 
the whole far less effective in respect of those func- 
tions which were intended to enable them to parti- 
cipate in the management of the enterprise. 

Taking it all in all, the Works Councils Act un- 
questionably constituted a decisive step in the direc- 
tion of industrial democracy. The works council 
movement represented, indeed, the most notable 
rise in the status of the workers by hand and brain 
which occurred in the Western countries during the 
last twenty years. 

Another progressive measure was the Labour 
Courts Act, 1926. This set up local Labour Courts, 
district Labour Courts of appeal, and a Reich 
Labour Court at Leipzig to act as the ultimate 
tribunal of revision. 

The jurisdiction of these courts was very wide, 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 7 

and included all labour cases previously coming 
before the civil courts. They were competent to 
decide questions relating to particular disagree- 
ments between individual employers and employees, 
and disputes arising out of collective agreements. 

Elaborate machinery for conciliation was also set 
up. This was of two kinds: official conciliation 
boards or conciliators appointed by the Ministry 
of Labour; and unofficial or voluntary conciliation 
organs. 

Where no settlement of a trade dispute could be 
obtained by agreement, one of the conciliation 
officers (Schlichter) or the Minister of Labour could 
in the last resort declare a decision to be binding 
on both parties. Such awards were intended to be 
imposed only in very exceptional circumstances; 
and the main responsibility for determining the 
conditions of employment was originally left with 
the representatives of the industry. 

Gradually, however, more and more use came to 
be made of the Government's powers until, under 
the Briining administration, the actual declaration 
or the contingent possibility of a compulsory wage 
award by one of the conciliation officials became of 
great importance in industrial negotiations. This 
development had the effect of weakening the power 
and undermining the influence of the trade unions 
because they were unable to demand conditions 
better than those fixed by the official award or likely 
to be so fixed. It thus contributed to the disastrous 
breakdown in the power of organized labour when 
it was faced with the Nazi challenge in 1933. 

This brief account will give some idea, however 
inadequate, of the remarkable position attained by 



8 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

labour under the Weimar Republic. Great advances 
were made in the power of trade unions; a vast 
extension took place in the scope of collective bar- 
gaining; the works councils enabled the employees 
to safeguard and uphold the rights of the workers 
in a new and unprecedented manner; the labour 
courts gave the representatives of the workpeople 
an equal share with the employer's representatives 
in the judicial determination of industrial disputes ; 
while the conciliation machinery did much to pro- 
mote the peaceful settlement of large-scale conflicts. 
The trade unions were, moreover, entrusted with 
important functions in the administration of the 
social insurance system. 

At every point the right of the organized workers 
to be represented by men of their own choosing 
was recognized. At every stage the force of law was 
given to rights previously non-existent or existing 
only precariously here and there as a matter of 
practice. In every instance the manifest aim of the 
State was to promote freedom and responsibility 
for the workpeople, and to assist them in the 
struggle for industrial democracy. The regime re- 
mained capitalist, and therefore did not satisfy the 
revolutionary wing of the working-class movement, 
which demanded a fundamental change in the 
economic order; but its achievements represented 
an enormous advance for labour over the previous 
condition of affairs. 

The Liquidation of the Working-class Movement 

The subject of industrial relations engaged the 
attention of the Nazi Government shortly after its 
accession to power. Hitler became Chancellor in 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 9 

January 1933. On 2 May the Nazis seized all trade- 
union buildings, arrested all the union leaders, and 
confiscated the trade-union property. In the follow- 
ing month the Social Democratic party was sup- 
pressed and the few remaining leaders taken into 
custody. In July the formation of all new parties 
was forbidden. From that moment the German 
labour movement was liquidated. It has been 
truly said that Germany no longer has any working- 
class organization in the accepted meaning of the 
term. 

In January 1934 the Nazis promulgated the 'Act 
for the organization of national labour 1 in which the 
leading principles of the new dispensation are to be 
found. This statute repealed eleven Acts and Orders 
containing almost the whole mass of labour law 
which had been passed since 1918. 

The first part of the National Labour Act deals 
with the leader of the establishment and the con- 
fidential council. In each establishment the owner 
of the undertaking as the leader (or Fuhrer) and the 
salaried and wage-earning employees as his followers 
or vassals (Gefolgschaft) are directed to 'work to- 
gether for the furtherance of the purposes of the 
establishment and for the benefit of the nation and 
the State in general'. There are several exhortatory 
provisions of this kind which have no precise mean- 
ing and no legal significance whatever. 

The proprietor of a business is transformed by 
the Act into its Fuhrer ', but the change is merely 
verbal. The Act lays it down that the leader is to 
make decisions for his followers in all matters 
affecting the establishment. He is enjoined to pro- 
mote their welfare, and they in turn are bidden to 



10 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

be loyal to him as fellow members of the works 
community. The owner, or directors of a company, 
may appoint a person taking a responsible part in 
the management to represent him or them. 

In establishments employing not less than 
twenty persons Vertrauensmanner ( c confidential 
men') are to be appointed from among the followers 
to advise the leader. Under his presidency they 
constitute the Vertrauensrat ('confidential council') 
of the works or business. 

The Confidential Council 

The size of the confidential council varies 
from two to ten persons, according to the magni- 
tude of the undertaking. A confidential man must 
be not less than twenty-five years old. He must 
have worked in the undertaking for at least a year 
and have been engaged in the same occupation 
for at least two years. He must be in posssession 
of civic rights and belong to the German Labour 
Front. He must, moreover, be 'characterized by 
exemplary human qualities, and guaranteed to 
devote himself unreservedly at all times to the 
National State'. He must, in short, be a complete 
Nazi. 

That this is the obvious intention is made clear 
by the method of appointment. The Act required 
that once a year the leader of the establishment 
should draw up a list of confidential men in agree- 
ment with the chairman of the Nazi 'cell' or party 
unit in the business. The faithful vassals were 
then supposed to have the privilege of voting for 
or against the list by ballot. If the works Ftihrer 
and the local Nazi chairman could not agree on 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 1 1 

the persons to be nominated, or if the followers 
failed to approve the list, the Labour Trustee a 
State official of whom more will be said later was 
authorized to appoint the confidential council. 

Even this slight opportunity given by the 
original Act for the workers to register their 
approval or disapproval of the list of persons 
nominated for the confidential council was with- 
drawn at an early stage. Since 1935 there have 
been no further 'elections', and the confidential 
men who then held office have been continued in 
their positions ever since. 

The functions of a confidential council are vastly 
different from those performed by a negotiating 
organ in countries where the workers are free to 
appoint their own representatives to bargain or 
co-operate with the employer or his association. 
The all-important questions of wages and hours of 
work are removed from its jurisdiction. 

Instead, the council is entrusted with the duty 
of 'strengthening mutual confidence within the 
works community'. It may give advice concerning 
measures directed to increasing efficiency; the 
formulation and carrying out of the general condi- 
tions of employment; safety measures, and the 
strengthening of the ties which bind the various 
members of the establishment to one another and 
to the establishment. It must endeavour to settle 
disputes within the factory. Its views must be 
obtained before penalties are imposed under the 
factory rules. 

In all these matters the council exercises only 
advisory powers. The employer is not compelled 
to accept its recommendations. Nor is there any 



12 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

indication of the manner in which the bonds of 
community within the undertaking are to be 
strengthened. 

On National Labour Day (i May) the members 
of the confidential council are required to take a 
solemn oath before the followers 'to perform the 
duties of their office exclusively for the benefit of 
the establishment and of the nation as a whole, 
setting aside all private interests, and to set an 
example to the members of the establishment by 
the life which they lead and the way in which they 
perform their duties'. This ludicrous ceremony 
scarcely amounts to more than an attempt to 
overcome the conflict of interests between employer 
and employees by means of a verbal incantation. 
It is obvious that where the instruments of pro- 
duction and distribution are privately owned (as 
they are in Germany) the interests of the partners 
in production labour and capital are in some 
respects similar and in other respects conflicting. 
As against other industries or rival undertakings in 
the same industry or as against consumers or in 
any sphere where there is a struggle to obtain a 
larger share of the national income, there is within 
a particular commercial or industrial undertaking 
a genuine identity of interest between employer 
and employees. But within each industrial or 
commercial firm there is also a conflict of interest 
between the employees, who desire a higher rate of 
wages, and the employer, who seeks a higher rate 
of profit or increased earnings of management. No 
mouthing of verbal formulae emphasizing the 
works community and the subordination of private 
interests to the common welfare will abolish this 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 13 

conflict so long as the objective conditions which 
produce it are unchanged. There is no objective 
change of this kind in Nazi Germany. 

The confidential council is to be convened when 
necessary by the leader of the firm or at the 
request of half the confidential men. The office is 
an honorary one, and terminates when the holder 
of it leaves his employment or resigns. A confi- 
dential man may not, however, be dismissed unless 
economic conditions necessitate the closing of the 
works or department in which he is employed; 
or unless he commits misconduct. But he may be 
removed by the Labour Trustee on the grounds of 
his unsuitability in circumstances or person. 

The Labour Trustees 

The all-powerful labour trustees (Treuhdnder 
der Arbeit] are Reich officials appointed by the 
Government for large economic areas. They come 
under the direction of the Minister of Labour. 
Their task, broadly, is to ensure the main- 
tenance of industrial peace. They are aided im- 
mensely in this task by the fact that strikes and 
lock-outs are not tolerated and although not 
formally proscribed by law would be instantly 
suppressed by strong-arm methods; that there are 
no trade unions; that agitators or even critics of 
industrial conditions are sent without delay to a 
concentration camp. But they are given a number 
of positive powers by which to achieve their 
statutory purpose. They supervise the formation 
and activities of the confidential councils; they 
are authorized to give decisions where an appeal is 
lodged by a majority of the confidential council 



14 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

against the general conditions of employment 
formulated by an employer a power which is 
seldom invoked since the confidence men are not 
the representatives of the workers ; they supervise 
the observance of the factory or workshop rules; 
they lay down principles guiding the general 
lines on which factory rules and individual con- 
tracts of employment are to be framed. Most 
important of all, they can lay down wage-rates for 
all classes of workers. At first their power in this 
respect was confined to the fixing of minimum rates 
of remuneration in cases where it was 'urgently 
needed for the protection of the persons employed 
in a group of establishments'. Between 1934 and 
the end of 1937 several thousand wage determina- 
tions of this kind were issued. The policy was to 
maintain the basic wage-rates operating at the 
beginning of 1934. But these were minima, and 
employers were free to offer higher rates if they 
wished. 

Since 1938, however, a decree promulgated to 
implement the Four- Year Plan has enabled the 
labour trustees to fix maximum as well as minimum 
rates in all branches of industry. Any departure 
from the scheduled rate is punishable by imprison- 
ment or fine of unlimited amount. On the outbreak 
of the present war the labour trustee was authorized 
to lay down employment conditions even for a par- 
ticular factory or firm. In this way the control over 
remuneration has passed from the trade union and 
the employers' association to a non-elective public 
official; the voluntary collective bargain has been 
superseded by the coercive wage determination. 

The labour trustees have many other powers and 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 15 

duties, some of which will be mentioned later. 
They act as the eyes and ears and mouthpiece of 
the central government in all matters concerning 
labour conditions. The tendency has been to 
increase their powers and importance since they 
were first created in 1934. Under the National 
Labour Act it is a criminal offence for any person 
wilfully and repeatedly to contravene instructions 
issued by a labour trustee. 

The labour trustees were required to appoint 
councils of experts from the various branches of 
industry in their territory for consultation on 
general questions. Three-quarters of the members 
were to be chosen from lists drawn up by the 
German Labour Front, and had to contain a 
considerable proportion of confidential men and 
an equal number of employers. The labour 
trustees may also appoint committees of experts to 
advise them in individual cases. These advisory 
bodies are of so nebulous a character, and their 
powers so ill defined, that they need not be 
seriously considered as a brake on the wheel of 
autocracy. In practice they have been a dead letter. 
On i September 1939 a decree was issued per- 
mitting the labour trustees to determine the 
guiding principles for establishment rules and 
individual contracts of employment, and to issue 
collective rules, without consulting a committee of 
experts. 

Social Honour Courts 

The National Labour Act set up a series of 
institutions known as Social Honour Courts. 
These consist of the Labour Court judges sitting 



1 6 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

with assessors appointed from nominees of the 
German Labour Front drawn from employers and 
confidential men. They are authorized to try 
'gross breaches of the social duties based on the 
works community' which constitute offences against 
social honour. 

Offences of this kind are deemed to have been 
committed when an employer or other person in a 
managerial position abuses his authority by 'mali- 
ciously exploiting the labour of any of his followers 
or wounding their sense of honour'; when a 
follower that is, an employee endangers indus- 
trial peace by maliciously provoking other followers, 
and in particular when a confidential man interferes 
unduly in the conduct of the business or disturbs 
the community spirit within the works; when a 
worker repeatedly makes frivolous and unjustifiable 
complaints to the labour trustee or obstinately 
disobeys instructions ; and when a member of the 
confidential council reveals without authority any 
confidential information or technical or business 
secrets. 

Where it is proved that by one of these means 
an offence against the highly sensitive German 
social honour has been committed, the Honour 
Court may warn or reprimand the culprit, fine 
him up to 10,000 Reichsmark, disqualify him from 
holding the position of leader of the establishment 
or confidential man, or remove him from his post. 
It is worth noting that where a leader is disqualified, 
the proceedings apply only to his capacity as 
Fiihrer under the National Labour Law and do not 
affect his proprietory position as employer. The 
labour trustee is once again placed in a pivotal 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE IJ 

position, since it is on his application that the 
matter comes before the Social Honour Court. 
He may attend the trial and make recommendations. 

Once again, too, we find in this part of the 
National Labour Act an incantation reflecting the 
position of submission into which the labouring 
masses have been forced by their present masters. 
Every member of a works community, it is declared, 
shall be responsible for the conscientious perfor- 
mance of the duties incumbent upon him in conse- 
quence of his position in that community. 'He shall 
conduct himself in such a manner as to show him- 
self worthy of the respect due to his position in the 
works community. In particular, he shall devote all 
his powers to the service of the establishment and 
subserve the common good, always bearing in mind 
his responsibility.' This is not law by any possible 
definition. It is a mere doctrine of obedience at all 
costs and in all circumstances. 

The Social Honour Courts were probably never 
intended to be much more than a window-dressing 
display. A number of cases were brought before 
them in 1934 and 1935, but since 1936 they have 
possessed little importance. 

The Abolition of Unemployment 

The most conspicuous feature of the Nazi regime 
in the field of industry has been the abolition of 
unemployment. The number of unemployed when 
Hitler took office was in the neighbourhood of 
7 millions, and one of the first aims of his govern- 
ment was to remove this dangerous threat to econo- 
mic and political stability. 

The elimination of the curse of unemployment 



1 8 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

from the Third Reich is an undeniable fact. The 
unchallenged statistics show a progressive reduction 
of unemployed workers from 6 millions at the be- 
ginning of 1933 to 4-8 millions in June 1933 and 
37 millions in October of the same year; thence it 
fell to an average of 2,268,000 in 1934, 2,150,000 in 
1935, 1,076,000 in October 1936, and 502,000 in 
1 937. Since then there has been a continual shortage 
of labour in Germany. The unemployment prob- 
lem has disappeared, and persons out of work are 
either unemployable, in course of changing their 
jobs, or disqualified from being employed. 

No one who is conscious of the misery and waste 
caused by the chronic unemployment which has 
existed for so long in Britain and the United States 
would be disposed to question the magnitude or 
importance of this achievement. It has been accom- 
plished by a radical transformation of the economic 
system involving the most stringent controls over 
every aspect of economic life prices, profits, wages, 
hours, consumption, output, foreign trade, currency, 
foreign exchange, &c. A study of these changes is a 
technical task for the professional economist. Here 
we are concerned only with those aspects of econo- 
mic policy which bear directly on the position of 
labour. The extent to which industrial servitude 
and regimentation has been exacted as the price for 
the elimination of unemployment is either not 
realized by those who emphasize only the final 
result or glossed over as though it were merely an 
irrelevant incident. 

The first step was the introduction of 'substitute 
employment* on a large scale. By this is meant 
work performed not for money wages but for mere 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 19 

maintenance. This was provided through the labour 
service, the land service, and relief works. There 
was an average of 800,000 persons engaged in labour 
of this kind in 1934, and in the spring of that year the 
number exceeded a million. These people were given 
maintenance in kind on a subsistence level, often 
under conditions involving considerable hardship. 
In June 1933 a law was passed to reduce un- 
employment, and this indicates the principles on 
which relief works were supposed to be undertaken 
almost from the beginning of the Nazi regime. The 
Minister of Finance was empowered to expend 
Rm. 1,000 millions with a view to promoting 
employment in Germany. Among the purposes 
specifically named were repairs and additions to 
dwelling-houses and buildings used for administra- 
tive work; bridges and other public structures; 
repairs to farm-buildings and dwellings for agricul- 
tural workers ; the construction of small suburban 
settlements and agricultural settlements; the recti- 
fication of watercourses ; the provision of plant for 
supplying gas, water, and electricity; subterranean 
constructional work undertaken by public authori- 
ties. It was expressly declared that the unemployed 
workers engaged in these tasks were not to be 
regarded as having entered a relation of employ- 
ment or service within the meaning of the labour 
laws, and were therefore not entitled to either the 
protection or the status of an employee. They were 
to receive unemployment relief (i.e. unemployment 
benefit, emergency benefit, or public assistance), 
vouchers to the value of Rm. 25 a month, for the 
purchase of clothing, linen, and household utensils ; 
and a hot meal on every working day. 



20 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

The objectives named in the Act were in fact 
not pursued. The labour made available by it was 
actually directed almost entirely to rearmament pur- 
poses, direct or indirect, including such items as 
the building of military roads. 

Labour Service 

In June 1935 the Labour Service Act was passed, 
by which the German Labour Service was made a 
permanent feature of the regime. It requires of all 
young Germans of either sex that they shall serve 
as industrial conscripts on work of public utility. 
The strength of the Labour Service was subse- 
quently fixed at 200,000 men and the period of 
service at six months. Normally the calling up takes 
place in the nineteenth year of age, but liability to 
service extends between the ages of 18 and 25. 

On 4 September 1939 the strength of the female 
corps of the National Labour Service was brought 
up to 100,000 working girls. The National Work 
Leader was authorized to call up unmarried women 
between 17 and 25 years of age not engaged in 
full-time employment, not attending vocational or 
educational courses, and not urgently required to 
assist their families in agricultural work. Thus, 
300,000 persons a year were absorbed into the 
Labour Service as industrial conscripts. 

In May 1934 a statute was passed regulating what 
it described as 'the allocation of employment'. This 
enabled the president of the Reich Institution for 
Employment Exchanges and Unemployment In- 
surance to prohibit the engagement, in districts with 
a high percentage of unemployment, of wage-earn- 
ing or salaried employees not resident therein. 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 21 



Astriction to the Soil 

The president could also order that persons em- 
ployed in agriculture at the date of his instructions, 
or who had been so employed during the previous 
three years, should not be employed on other work 
without permission. Furthermore, industrial or 
commercial firms, or even private persons employ- 
ing workers who had formerly been agricultural 
labourers at any time during the preceding three 
years, were bound to dismiss them when directed to 
do so. A little later (in February 1935) the qualifica- 
tion of three years was removed, and the restriction 
could then operate so as to prevent the further 
employment of workers who had been engaged in 
agricultural pursuits at any time. 

Thus there was introduced by the Nazi Govern- 
ment one of the most reactionary measures in the 
history of the" modern world: an astriction to the 
soil similar to that which obtained in the Middle 
Ages, except that whereas in feudal times it was the 
villein or serf with land of his own who was bound 
to the soil, in twentieth-century Germany it is the 
landless agricultural labourer who is not merely 
bound to the soil but forced to return to the land 
after he has left it. 

The peasant was dealt with by the Hereditary 
Farms Law of 1933 on similar lines. This Act, 
which applied to farms not exceeding about 300 
acres, prohibited the owners from alienating or 
mortgaging their land. They were entailed so as to 
pass automatically from father to son. More than 
5 million persons living on about 700,000 farms 



22 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

about a third of the agricultural population of Ger- 
many were affected by this law. 

The Land Help 

Another step in the same direction was the Land 
Help (Landhilfe) which was established early in the 
Hitler regime. The purpose of this was to settle 
young unemployed persons on the land. Farmers 
who engaged such workers received a monthly grant 
payable out of unemployment insurance funds. The 
workers themselves received a small allowance in 
money in addition to their keep. About 160,000- 
180,000 young men and women were set to work on 
the land in this way by a method which is strangely 
reminiscent of the Speenhamland system which 
prevailed in England during the Napoleonic wars. 
The essential feature of this system was an allow- 
ance paid out of the rates to supplement the wages 
of able-bodied workmen in low-paicj employment. 
It was often associated with a bread scale graduating 
the relief according to the price of bread. The 
complaints which have been made against the 
modern German Land Help indicate to competent 
observers that its main use is to reduce unemploy- 
ment benefit, provide landowners and farmers with 
cheap labour and strengthen the machinery of com- 
pulsion over the individual.' 1 

From 1936 onwards a series of measures were 
introduced covering the rest of the employed popula- 
tion which were of the utmost importance. The 
frenzied intensification of military preparations by 
the Nazi leaders, the decision to speed up the con- 

1 Organized Labour in Four Continents: 'Germany', by Erich 
Roll, p. 114. 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 23 

struction of the Western fortifications, and the 
deliberate intention of placing the entire nation on 
a war footing at a time when Germany was still 
nominally at peace with her neighbours, led to the 
imposition of a policy which deprived the industrial 
population of Germany of the characteristics of free 
men and marked them with the stigma of helots. 
This enslavement of the workers was not caused by 
any external pressure on Germany. It was adopted 
deliberately as a settled policy. 

Industrial Conscription 

In June 1938 a decree empowered the govern- 
ment to require any one to perform work of urgent 
national importance. This order contained a proviso 
guaranteeing that those who were called up should 
receive not less remuneration than the wages they 
had formerly earned. In February 1939 a further 
decree declared that the official employment ex- 
changes should have power to requisition the ser- 
vices of all persons resident in German territory for 
the performance of 'any work which the Commis- 
sioner for the Four- Year Plan (Goering) might 
designate to be of particular importance and 
urgency'. For this purpose private and public em- 
ployers can be required to release persons in their 
employment. 

The new system is one of unmitigated industrial 
conscription. There is no stipulation that a man 
shall be employed in his own" trade or occupa- 
tion, and it is even expressly provided that workers 
requisitioned for service may be required to under- 
go a course of training to prepare them for the 
compulsory work which they have to perform. 



24 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

There is no limit of time for the period of conscrip- 
tion, no restriction as to the place in which the work 
is to be carried out, and no provision for enabling 
married men to be accompanied by their wives and 
families. Men called up are bound to use their own 
tools if required. 

Workpeople engaged on compulsory labour have 
no voice whatever in the determination of their 
wages, hours, or conditions of employment, 
although they are often required to serve private 
firms engaged in carrying out the Four- Year Plan 
on a profit-making basis. They merely have to 
submit to the terms, whatever they may be, 
Applicable to the new place of employment'; and 
a contract of service is deemed to be concluded 
on the terms stated in the requisitioning order. 

The decree of February 1939 introduced another 
striking change. The Minister of Labour was 
given power 'for special national reasons' to 
prohibit employment from being commenced or 
terminated without the consent of the employment 
exchange. A workman is thus not at liberty to 
leave his employment of his own free will if he is 
dissatisfied with the wages or conditions or because 
the employer has treated him badly or because a 
foreman has been oppressive or for any of the 
multitudinous reasons which lead to a change of 
situation under free conditions when discontent 
or friction arise. He cannot take a better or more 
convenient job, or move from one town to another 
for domestic reasons. He cannot refuse to accept a 
situation which he regards as unsatisfactory or 
unsuitable, for he can be prevented from obtaining 
employment elsewhere. The employer, on his part, 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 25 

is not able to discharge an unsatisfactory or inefficient 
or discontented workman unless he can satisfy an 
official that there is good cause for his so doing. 

On i September 1939 a slight modification was 
introduced by a further decree. The withdrawal 
of the right of employers and wage-earning or 
salaried employees of all grades (including trainees, 
improvers, and apprentices) to terminate their 
employment without consent of the Government 
was reaffirmed, and all notices to quit work given 
without previous consent were declared null and 
void. But certain exceptions to the general rule 
were admitted. Thus, where both parties agree to 
terminate the contract, the consent of the govern- 
ment employment exchange is not required. The 
same applies in the case of an employee who has 
been engaged on probation or as extra assistant 
and the employment is terminated within one 
month. A further exception is made if the business 
has to suspend operations. 

The first of these exceptions is the most impor- 
tant. It has the effect of permitting a dissolution 
of the employment relation by mutual consent, 
but of not permitting it without the assent of the 
State where only one of the parties desires to 
terminate. Thus, the dissatisfied employer must 
prima facie remain dissatisfied with his workman; 
and the discontented workmen continue at their 
work unless the Government wills it otherwise. 

This same decree of September 1939 elaborates 
further the restriction on the engagement of 
employees laid down in the earlier regulations. 
It forbids not only business or administrative 
undertakings of all kinds, but 



26 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

holders, from engaging workers without the consent 
of the employment exchange. These provisions 
are applied also to relatives who regularly assist 
members of the family, even if they are not 
employed for wages or salary. Thus, a wife cannot 
help her husband in his business, nor a son his 
father, without permission from the State. 

Any contrayentior^ or evasion of the decree is a 
criminal offence punishable with fine or imprison- 
ment, or both. 

In the National Labour Act, 1934, much space 
was devoted to 'protection against dismissal'. It 
contained provisions (adopted with certain modifi- 
cations from the Works Councils Act) whereby if a 
worker were dismissed after having worked for a 
year in an establishment employing not less than 
ten persons, he could lodge a complaint with the 
Labour Court asking for a revocation of the 
dismissal 'if it constitutes an undue hardship and 
is not necessitated by conditions in the establish- 
ment'. The Labour Court could then revoke the 
dismissal, although it was obliged to award compen- 
sation (which might amount to as much as four 
months' remuneration) to be paid to the worker if 
the employer preferred to make redress in that 
form. 

The National Labour Act, 1934 (again adapting 
principles embodied in a decree of 1923), also 
sought to control large-scale dismissals by requiring 
every owner of a business employing fewer than 
100 persons to notify the labour trustee before 
dismissing more than nine workpeople; or in the 
case of larger undertakings, before dismissing 
10 per cent, of the persons usually employed 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 27 

there, and before throwing out of work more than 
fifty persons in the course of a month. These 
prospective dismissals would not become operative 
without the approval of the labour trustee until a 
period of four weeks had elapsed after sending him 
the notification; and he could delay them for a 
maximum period of two months. If the entre- 
preneur were not in a position to keep his workers 
fully employed for so long, the labour trustee could 
authorize short time and a spreading of the work. 
Despite several objections which could be 
brought against these provisions, they were clearly 
designed on the one hand to give the individual 
worker an enhanced security, and on the other to 
assist in reducing or preventing unemployment: 
that was the manifest reason for interfering with 
or delaying the employer's right to dismiss. There 
was, moreover, no coercion or pressure of any 
kind on the worker. He was free to leave his 
employment, to change his situation, to enter a 
fresh occupation at any time. 

A State of Servitude 

What a chasm separates the benevolent intention 
of these provisions of 1934, which were essentially 
a legacy from the Weimar Republic, from the 
ruthless measures of 1938-9! Within five short 
years the Nazis had adopted a policy of forced 
labour for any work which falls within the scope 
of the Four- Year Plan, whether carried out by 
private firms for profit or by ^public authorities. 
They had compelled those who had ever been 
employed in agricultural labour to return to their 
former occupation. They had astricted to the soil 



a8 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

those actually engaged in agriculture whether as 
farmers or as labourers. They had compelled men 
to leave their jobs, their trades, their homes, their 
families, their districts, to work in distant places as 
industrial conscripts for unlimited periods of time. 
They had prbHEItecL employees from freely leaving 
their employment and from freely entering into 
employment. They had deprived workers of any 
voice in the settlement of wages, hours, and 
working conditions. They had destroyed not 
merely trade unions but the very bases on which 
trade unionism is founded the right to strike and 
the right to quit work. 

With these oppressive measures riveted upon 
them the employed masses of German men and 
women have ceased to be free citizens of the world 
of labour. They have entered a state of peonage 
the like of which has not been seen in the countries 
of Western Europe for centuries. 

The workers of Britain and France are being 
called upon during the War to accept a degree of 
regimentation and State Control which may prove 
not far short of that imposed on the German 
people. But no comparison whatever can be 
drawn. Here we give up liberty in order to fight 
more effectively to retain our freedom. In Germany 
there never has been and never will be freedom for 
the workers under Nazi rule. 

With us, the political and trade union organiza- 
tion of labour remains intact, shouldering large 
governmental responsibilities and filling a more 
important r6le in national affairs than ever before 
in its history. In Germany, it has been completely 
obliterated, and will never revive until the Hitler 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 29 

regime is overthrown. With us, it is a war-time 
necessity. With them, it is a peace-time policy* 

Those who are unduly impressed by the abolition 
of unemployment in Germany should therefore 
consider the consequences of Nazi labour policy 
on the position of the employed. A different 
judgement is then likely to emerge as to the 
desirability of that policy. It is true that the most 
comprehensive suppression of the workers' freedom 
came in 1938-9, after the worst phases of unemploy- 
ment had been mastered. But the main principles 
of the industrial tyranny practised in these later 
years were inherent in the policies adopted from 
1934 onwards. The solution of the unemployment 
problem is a task for which everyone with any 
intelligence or humanity must feel a deep concern ; 
but no sane person would be willing to sacrifice the 
elementary" rights, liberty, and welfare of the 80 
or 90 per cent, of the working-class population 
which is employed for the sake of the 10 or 15 
per cent, which is without work. 

The Labour Front 

A word must now be said about the Labour 
Front. This is the only association which the 
workers are permitted to join; but it is in no sense a 
genuine labour organization. It is a vast institution 
containing both employers and employed a kind 
of 'company union' (to use an American expression) 
on a national scale, but one which is dominated 
and directed by the Nazi party. Its aim was 
described in sonorous phrases in a decree of 
October 1934 as being the formation of 'a real 
community of achievement amongst the whole 



30 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

German people ... It must seek to ensure that 
every individual can take his place in the economic 
life of the nation in that mental and physical 
condition which will make for his greatest achieve- 
ment, and thereby secure the greatest gain to the 
community as a whole. . . . The Labour Front 
must seek to preserve industrial peace by incul- 
cating in economic leaders an understanding of the 
legitimate claims of their followers, and in the 
followers an understanding of the situation and 
the possibilities of the business in which they are 
working/ And so on in similar vein. 

The ostensible functions of the Labour Front 
are threefold: it supervises vocational training; it 
is concerned with various aspects of welfare, such 
as working-class housing, amenities in factories 
and workshops, the relief of distress among its 
members; and it administers the ' Strength through 
Joy' movement. In all these spheres it no doubt 
gives or obtains for the workers benefits that they 
would not otherwise obtain in the present state of 
Germany, but which they obtained in larger measure 
in pre-Nazi days through the activities of the trade 
unions. It has at its disposal considerable financial 
resources and the authority of the Nazi party. 

The funds of the Labour Front are chiefly 
derived from contributions levied on the members, 
substantial in amount and compulsory in character. 
No account is rendered of these funds. The 
Labour Front is thus from one point of view a 
powerful instrument for the collection of additional 
taxation from employers and workpeople alike. 
It also serves an ominous but highly important 
purpose in keeping the authorities 'informed' of 



LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 31 

any disloyalty or discontent manifested by em- 
ployers and workers. Through its complicated 
organization it is able to maintain a close sur- 
veillance on the individual employer and workman. 

The Labour Front is essentially a substitute 
organization designed to fill, in appearance at 
least, the aching void left by the disappearance of 
the trade unions, the political parties, and the 
working-class representation in local, provincial, 
and central government just as the confidential 
council is a substitute for the enormous gap made 
by the abolition of the works council. The ghosts 
of the past walk again. 

The Labour Front has no jurisdiction in regard 
to wages, hours, and conditions of employment. 
The Ministry of Labour has, indeed, issued 
frequent decrees and pronouncements enjoining 
the officials of the Labour Front not to interfere 
in these matters, which, as we have seen, are 
determined by the labour trustees. Even in regard 
to industrial welfare it can do no more than 
recommend, though the Nazi officials who direct 
it no doubt have at their disposal methods of 
securing compliance. 

* Strength through Joy * 

The 'Strength through Joy' movement is essen- 
tially a diversion. By providing millions of workers 
with facilities for cheap holidays and travel excur- 
sions, by organizing entertainments, concerts, 
dances, athletics and games on a vast scale, it has 
done much to keep the German working man 
amused, or bemused, and his attention diverted 
from present discontents. It is obviously derived 



32 LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE 

from the dopo lavoro instituted several years pre- 
viously in Fascist Italy. 

The name of the movement is significant. By 
emphasizing the acquisition of strength through 
the enjoyment of recreations and leisure time 
activities, an attempt is made to keep the thoughts 
of the workers headed away from the central fact 
of the present situation: namely, the total annihila- 
tion of their organized power. 

Conclusion 

Divergent views are held by observers in this 
country and elsewhere as to the general trend of 
the German economy. Some investigators regard 
the Nazi regime as having re-established capitalism 
on a basis of monopoly, autarchy, and governmental 
control. Others consider the Third Reich to be a 
form of perverted communism in which the sole 
aim is the lust for State power. A third view 
suggests that Hitler's Germany is simply a military 
dictatorship in which the only criterion of economic 
measures is the war potential of the nation. 

It is not necessary to decide which, if any, of 
these doctrines is the correct one, in order to arrive 
at one conclusion of unquestionable truth: namely, 
that the status, the freedom, the power, and the 
conditions of work of the employed workers in 
Germany have deteriorated to an almost incon- 
ceivable extent under the Nazi Government. 



PUBLISHER'S NOTE 

FOR those who wish to read in more detail about the 
background and causes of the present state of the world, 
the following notes may be of some assistance. 

The best and most up-to-date general picture of 
England as she was from the rise of Germany in 1870 to 
the outbreak of the First World War is given in Mr. 
Ensor's book England i8yo-igi4 (15$.)* which is Volume 
14 of the new Oxford History of England. A reliable 
German account of German foreign policy during the 
same period is given in E. Brandenburg's From Bismarck 
to the World War (trans, by A. E. Adams, 15$.)- Mr. 
C. R. M. F. Cruttwell's History of the Great War 1914- 
1918 (15$.) may be recommended as the standard one- 
volume work on the subject. Mr. G. M. Gathorne- 
Hardy deals with the period between the two wars in his 
Short History of International Affair s, 1920-1938 (%s. 6d.) 9 
a book issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of 
International Affairs. 

The two volumes of Speeches and Documents on 
International Affairs, edited by Professor A. B. Keith 
(World's Classics, 2s. 6d. each), and the selection of 
political writings in Sir Alfred Zimmern's Modern 
Political Doctrines (js. 6d.) illustrate the conflict of 
doctrines so much in evidence to-day. 

The outbreak of the present war is described and 
discussed in the brilliant series of lectures delivered to 
crowded audiences in Oxford in the first ' war-term * of 
1939 by H. A. L. Fisher, A. D. Lindsay, Gilbert 
Murray, R. C. K. Ensor, Harold Nicolson, and J. L. 
Brierly, and collected and published in one volume 
under the title The Background and Issues of the 
War (6s.). 

The prices quoted above are net and held good in 
January 1940, but are liable to alteration without notice. 



OXFORD PAMPHLETS 
ON WORLD AFFAIRS 



1. THE PROSPECTS OF CIVILIZATION, by SIR ALFRED ZIMMERN. 

2. THE BRITISH EMPIRE, by H. V. HODSON. 

3. MEIN KAMPF, by R. C. K. ENSOR. 

4. ECONOMIC SELF-SUFFICIENCY, by A. G. B. FISHER. 

5. 'RACE' IN EUROPE, by JULIAN HUXLEY. 

6. THE FOURTEEN POINTS AND THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES, 
by G. M. GATHORNE-HARDY. 

7. COLONIES AND RAW MATERIALS, by H. D. HENDERSON. 

8. ' LIVING-SPACE' AND POPULATION PROBLEMS, by R. R. 

KUCZVNSKI. 

9. TURKEY, GREECE, AND THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN, 
by G. F. HUDSON. 

10. THE DANUBE BASIN, by C. A. MACARTNEY. 

11. THE DUAL POLICY, by SIR ARTHUR SALTER, M.P. 

12. ENCTRCLEMFNT, by J. L. BRIKRLY. 

13. THE REFUGEE QUESTION, by SIR JOHN HOPE SIMPSON. 

14. THE TREATY OF BREST-LITOVSK, by J. W. WHEELER-BFNNETT. 

15. CZECHOSLOVAKIA, by R. BIRLEY. 

16. PROPAGANDA IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, by E. H. CARR. 

17. THE BLOCKADE, 1914-1919, by W. ARNOLD- HORSIER. 

18. NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND CHRISTIANITY, by N. MICKLEM. 

19. CAN GERMANY STAND THE STRAIN? by L. P. THOMPSON. 

20. WHO HITLER IS, by R. C. K. ENSOR. 

21. THE NAZI CONCEPTION OF LAW, by J. WALTER JONES. 

22. AN ATLAS OF THE WAR. 

23. THE SINEWS OF WAR, by GEOFFREY CROWTHER. 

24. BLOCKADE AND THE CIVILIAN POPULATION, by SIR WILLIAM 
BEVERIDGE. 

25. PAYING FOR THE WAR, by GEOFFREY CROWTHER. 

26. THE NAVAL ROLE IN MODERN WARFARE, by ADMIRAL SIR 
HERBERT RICHMOND. 

27. THE BALTIC, by J. HAMPDEN JACKSON. 

28. BRITAIN'S AIR POWER, by E. COLSTON SHEPHERD. 

29. THE LIFE AND GROWTH OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE, by 
J. A. WILLIAMSON. 

30. HOW BRITAIN'S RESOURCES ARE MOBILIZED, by MAX 
NICHOLSON. 

31. PALESTINE, by JAMES PARKES. 

32. INDIA, by L. F. RUSHBROOK WILLIAMS. 

33. LABOUR UNDER NAZI RULE, by W. A. ROBSON. 

34. RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY, by BARBARA WARD. 

35. WAS GERMANY DEFEATED IN 1918? by CYRIL FALLS. 

Other Pamnhlets are in active vrevaration 



No. 33 



Price 3d. net 



LABOUR 

UNDER 

NAZI RULE 



By WILLIAM A. ROBSON 



OXFORD PAMPHLETS 
ON WORLD AFFAIRS